Trump, Biden, and Warren

I’m increasingly stressed out about the presidential election next year.

Polls show that Trump has an edge in the battleground states — MI, PA, AZ, FL, WI, and NC — when matched up against Sanders and Warren. Against, Biden, Trump loses.

I don’t think anybody is excited about Biden, but those numbers are very concerning.

The rest of the Democratic candidates are looking at those numbers and regretting setting themselves up to be the next AOC. Watch them all move a step to the right during this week’s debates. The Twitter Democrats may have sunk the next election.

I do like Warren. I’ve been talking about here on this blog, since 2004. But she makes a lot of people nervous. Her healthcare plan got very mixed reviews this weekend.

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Never Give Up

When Ian was really little, like five years old, I had a meeting with a high level special education administrator. I was pretty miserable at that time. I didn’t feel like he was getting enough support for his disability or being appropriately challenged. We knew that he was smart. His test scores were in the 99th percentile. But he had SO MANY issues at that time.

He could barely understand what people were saying to him. His ability to comprehend language went down to zero when he was upset. His pre-school teacher would pass him written notes during those times, because he could read, but he didn’t understand what she was saying.

He frequently screamed or got upset, but couldn’t tell people what was bothering him. Looking back on it, he was just scared all the time. You would be too, if you didn’t understand what people were talking about. He had lots of sensory issues; he couldn’t tolerate loud sounds, bright lights, clothes.

Now, when he hears songs from that time or an old movie pops up on the TV as we’re flipping through channels, he runs out of the room. He said that those images and music trigger “nightmares.” He said that he gets flashbacks. I think he suffers from PTSD from autism.

Anyway, I was in this office with the administrator to request that he be held back for a year, so he would have another year to grow and catch up with his peers. She said no, because it would cut short his time in high school when they would have to train him for a job. In other words, she looked at him and saw someone who would need lots of training to stack shelves in Walmart. She had sized him up at age five and wrote him off.

Twelve years later, Ian took his PSATs this month. He spent an entire day at a band festival yesterday, playing bass drum and marching around the field. He blended in. He still has language deficits, sensory issues, and nervous tics, but he’s also rocking his talents in music and computers. He has a future ahead of him. A good one.

Every year, he gets better. This year’s band festival went much better than last year. He’s less likely to get irritated with peers who do random things. He doesn’t need an aide to supervise him. He chatted with classmates. I get lovely notes from his teachers, who tell me that he’s continues to surprise them.

Here’s what I’ve learned from raising a kid with autism — brains heal. They don’t heal completely, of course; Ian will always have his struggles. But with lots of work and opportunities, brains do get better. So, sizing up a five-year old and predicting adulthood is not only useless, it is harmful.

That administrator urged me to stop being so miserable and accept my kid’s limitations. She suggested that I spend more time on my career. Just the week before, another administrator had told me to stop worrying and to get a manicure.

I am so glad that we didn’t listen to them.

Johnny Still Can’t Read

It was a bad week to write anything about schools. The NAEP test scores came out, and that’s the big story. Nobody cares that school buildings are falling down, when the kids can’t read. I might argue that it’s all tied together, but I won’t today.

Let’s just talk about the scores themselves. Basically, scores have stayed flat for thirty years. Only 1/3 of American kids are on grade level for math and reading.

The big question is why. Brace yourself for a 1,000 thought pieces on this topic in the next few weeks. Is it because the teachers aren’t teaching phonics? Is it because kids are glued to their cellphones? Is it because parents are working too much and aren’t helping their kids? Is there enough teacher accountability? Do we need more charter schools?

I don’t know. I think we need more of everything, and there’s no one right answer.

But what really has me worried is what happens to these kids as they become barely literate high school graduates. We’re pushing them off to colleges, where they get stuck in remedial classes that are trying to teach skills that they should have learned in middle school. Most drop out of college; others major in things like Leisure Studies or Sports Management and then can’t find a proper job after graduation. There are fewer jobs for adults without those basic skills.

I’m not sure why education isn’t a national priority. I don’t know why it isn’t the top issue in a presidential election. I’m not sure why we push education stories to the back pages of newspapers and journals. For me, it’s Ground Zero for a better world.

SL 766

Lots of IRL chatter about this Andrew Sullivan column. I liked these two paragraphs about Yang:

“The only true bright spot is Andrew Yang — fresh, real, future-oriented, sane, offering actual analyses of automation, trade, and technology that distinguish him from the crowd. Like Buttigieg, I suspect he’d be a superb foil for Trump and could flummox the dictatorial dotard into incoherence and open bigotry. He’s a fascinating character to me. When he’s asked a question, his nearly expressionless, wrinkle-free face, which seems to spring directly from his chest, seems about to offer some canned pabulum, and then almost always responds with a flawless, thoughtful, and entirely relevant, even insightful answer. I’m rooting for him (and Pete), but I’m not delusional.

Yang and “Booty-judge” are the future that possibly has arrived too soon, like Obama in 2007. But neither, alas, has Obama’s aura, emotional intelligence, and natural command. Who even has Bill Clinton’s roguish charm and policy brilliance?”

Cosmo – yes, the boob-happy fashion magazine with a quiz – did a series of interviews with the candidates. They asked all of the candidates, including Bernie, about their skin-care regime. The only person’s skin care regime that I care about is Warren. What does she do to make her neck look so fabulous? I want product names ASAP.

By 2025, the full cost of admission to the University of Chicago might be $100,000.

Impact of rising sea levels in Asia by 2050. Scary map alert.

Skimping on School Buildings is Creating a Crisis

The aging school buildings of Arizona’s Glendale Elementary School District were no match for the late summer monsoons of 2016. With foundations made brittle after years of prolonged water damage, flooding seeped in. A structural engineer feared that walls would give way.

School leaders scrambled to find new spaces for nearly 1,500 students until outside contractors could remediate waterlogged walls and floors and reinforce foundations in two buildings. Some students were shuttled to another school in the district; others were sent to a neighboring town.

Superintendent Cindy Segotta-Jones didn’t want to make the students relocate. But with aging buildings desperately needing repair after years of underfunding, she had no choice. “You can’t tell me that it doesn’t impact their learning when they’re in a different environment,” she said. “These disruptions are not fair to children.”

America’s schools, many built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are due for a major overhaul after decades of inadequate funding made worse by the 2008 recession. These old buildings are only getting older — in Glendale, where some schools date to the 1940s, drainage problems make them vulnerable during the rainy season and aging air conditioners frequently conk out as temperatures soar to 115 degrees.

More here

What I Learned From Shopping at Estate Sales

I walked into to the estate sale at 9am on Saturday and immediately knew that this was this right sort of house for me.

The very modest two bedroom house was on a cul-de-sac in one of those modest suburbs that erupted around New York City after World War II. The wall to wall grey rugs were bunched up and thread bare. There was one of those automatic stair-chairs and unopened bags of Depends in the corner. And the house was packed to the brim with stuff – a grand piano that dominated the living room, shelves and shelves of book, artwork and prints spread out over the piano for sale, and little china cups every where.

Together, all that stuff was a horror show. There was just too much of all of it, and it was covered in dust. The guy who ran the sale told me that there was even more, but the basement had gotten flood last year and all that stuff down there were just dumped in a dumpster.

It was so sad that I almost walked out of the house. The house reeked of depression and OCD. The other people at the sale were Asberger’s types looking for yet another volume of Plato’s Republic or very poor people picking up a casserole pan for a $1. I was there looking for pretty, but not terribly valuable books.

I’ve been working on one writing project or another continuously for months. Even when I had a short break for a vacation or while waiting for an editor, there was always an article on the back burner using up brain space. I have some vague plans for my next projects, but I decided to really take a couple of weeks off before starting them. I’m very burned out.

So, I decided to lean into my sporadic hobby of selling books on the Internet. I don’t do it very often. Every few months, if I have spare time between articles or while waiting for interview subjects to return my emails, I post stuff on the Internet. It’s very, very low brain work. Time consuming, but it’s nothing like brain-hurtie job of wrangling ideas into palatable words.

I’ve learned a lot from this hobby. Not just that the Modern Library series is very collectable, and that homeschoolers love old children’s biographies. I’ve learned a lot about growing old.

Walking into that house on Saturday, I made a silent promise to myself. I will not go out like this — surrounded by “treasures” which confine movement and fill the air with moldy and musty smells. When I went into the house, the junk had already been cleared out by the estate sale people and the previous day’s buyers. It was probably even worse a few weeks ago.

When I hit 70, I’m going to start selling and giving away all my stuff. I’m already going through my basement and getting rid of crap. I want a nearly empty house by the time that I’m too old to do anything about it.

There were “treasures” in the house — books when dusted off and grouped with similar items that will easily sell to young home decorators. I picked up a stack of Modern Library books and some boxed sets of Heritage Series books. I’ll decide later, if I’ll sell the boxed books for $20 a pop or as a lot for $150. I can’t help buying this stuff, because it’s like finding $100 bills on the ground. Curated, the books are valuable. In that house, they were dumpster fodder.

But I don’t want my last years weighed down by crap, and have already stopped accumulating. I rarely buy a new dish or pan anymore, except to replace something that is broken. I only buy ebooks. All our photographs are online (though some should be made into neat little books). We’re gotten rid of all the kids old toys, except for the wooden Thomas train sets, because there are still too many memories there.

I want to check out with dignity. I don’t want to burden my children with getting rid of our stuff. I want to fill my later years with family and experiences, not dusty books.

The Evolving World of High School Football Games

I go to a lot of high school football games — way more than I attended when I was in high school — because Ian is the marching band.

Ian is not an enthusiastic member of the marching band. Alright, let’s just say it. He hates it. He only weighs 122 pounds, has low muscle tone, and flat feet. He plays percussion, where every instrument other than the cymbals weighs about 1/3 of his body weight.

There are hours and hours of practicing and waiting around. This week alone, he’s practiced every day during his music period. He has a game tonight where he won’t get home until about 10:30 (he leaves for school at 7:00 am). Tomorrow, he has four hours of practice in the afternoon. Sunday, he has a full day marching band festival. If he makes it through the weekend without yelling at an adult, there will be a fat STEAM gift card waiting for him.

This year, he got stuck with the big bass drum. Because he can’t see over the drum, his legs are one big black and blue mark from tripping. He fell over a curb the week before and cut open his chin. He has shin splints from all the time on his feet. Steve rigged some padding around the harness, because he had bruises on his chest.

Because Ian attends a very small school, the music director made marching band mandatory for all students. Without that rule, there would be no kids with their trumpets or flutes in the stands.

Steve and I aren’t football people. We’re only at these Friday night games to support our kid. We’ve gotten into the habit of finding a dive bar near the game, pounding a couple of beers, and eating wings for dinner. Then we show up half drunk by the end of the second quarter. We’ll be doing that tonight.

Football, in some ways, is the same as it ever was. Touchdowns and fumbles. The crazy parent yelling on the top of their lungs. Kids sneaking out the hole in the fence to drink and vape between plays. But somethings are different.

One major positive change is that there is a greater diversity of body types among the cheerleaders. They’re not all beautiful and skinny. I have to say that watching those girls always makes me smile.

Last week, we met up with a friend for our pre-gaming ritual. His kid was playing marching band for the opposing team. He said that his school doesn’t have enough football players anymore, so they’re going to have merge their team with another nearby town. The boys in his school are all on the soccer team instead.

With Ian’s injuries this year, I think we’re going to let him step away from his music program for his senior year. It will free up time in his schedule for another computer class. So, tonight’s game might be his last game ever (if they lose, there won’t make it to playoff tournaments).

I’m semi-sad about it, because it will mark another end of a parenting era. Also, I’ve come to enjoy the pre-game beer and wings, the moms in their bulky sweatshirts selling candy and pretzels in the club house, and the strange, quirky world of marching bands.